Random Access Memory or “RAM” is one of the specifications we typically see when we’re buying a laptop or upgrading our desktop PCs. For those who are not really tech-savvy or gaming enthusiast, the only thing that matters is the number before the “GB” tag. But for those who really knows their peripherals, we are greeted with more information such as chipset, speed and timings. But what does this all mean? Well, read on.
Why do you need RAM?
We usually associate memory with USBs and external hard drives to store up our files, pictures and movies. But RAM is a tad bit different. The perfect analogy to describe RAM is that it is like a table. The bigger the table, the more papers you can spread out and work on it all at once. While hard drives act like a cabinet, the bigger it is, the more files you can store.
The more RAM your device have, the more programs it can run simultaneously. Ever notice that when you have multiple tabs on a browser, some tabs reload when you click on them? That’s because your RAM can handle them all running so they shut the others down until you visit them again. It also applies on your laptop or desktop, when you have so many programs running, your device slows down because it can’t handle that many applications all at once.
But do note that RAM isn’t the sole factor to determine a certain device’s speed. Peripherals like processor and your graphics card also affects the speed on how a program or application will run.
How much do you need?
It’s really hard to determine how much RAM do you need but it’s much more easier to to base it on the type of device that you’re using. So here it is:
- 2GB: Mid-ranged tablets, budget Chromebooks, mid to high-end smartphones
- 4GB: Low-end laptops, high-end Chromebooks, flagship android smartphones
- 8GB: Standard of mid to high-end laptops and desktops
- 16GB: Sweet spot for high-end laptops and desktops
- 32GB and beyond: For Enthusiasts and special-case workstations
If you want to buy a new laptop or desktop and you really want the best that will secure you safely in the future, you may want to opt to 16GB and 32GB of RAM. But if you’re on a budget, make sure you opt for 8GB or more. it’s a good place to start.
DDR3 vs DDR4
If you tried to build your own desktop or wanted to upgrade your laptop, you may have experienced these words. Nowadays, we’re starting to see more and more DDR4 memory options on the market, but DDR3 is still here. To give some basic information, DDR4 is much more expensive than DD3, but it also has higher clock speeds.
DDR4 operates at a lower voltage than DDR3. Typically, DDR4 runs at 1.2 volts, down to 1.5. Another big difference are the clock speeds. DDR3 starts at 800 MT/s (or millions of transfers per second) and some variants go higher up to 2133. DDR4 starts it’s base configuration to 2133 MHz.
Also note that when you’re building a desktop, your motherboard needs to be compatible to the RAM that you’re considering. DDR4 RAM is not backwards compatible with DDR3 motherboards and vice versa. The notch has been moved to prevent accidental insertion of the wrong type of memory.
RAM Speeds: Frequency and Latency
Capacity is much more easier subject because it just directly correlates to how many and how power-hungry your applications are. If you want more Chrome tabs running in your browser without those tabs refreshing when you use them, then get a higher capacity RAM. But RAM speeds is whole new topic.
RAM speeds are divided in to two: there’s frequency which will go anywhere from around 1333 MHz all the way up to 3000 Mhz. It predominantly affects the maximum bandwidth so that’s how much data that can be transferred to and from at a time. And there’s latency which is how quick a RAM responds to a certain request. These two things affects the performance of your memory stick.
In our current market, as you get higher frequencies, latency tends to increase. So in many cases, they tend to balance each other out. Buying RAM with a higher speed doesn’t really affect the performance of your desktop greatly so you want to look for other peripherals that can greatly increase your power just like a graphics card. But do note that RAM speed has a bigger effect when you’re using integrated graphics. Performance isn’t always a huge concern (especially with Intel) but an AMD APU can make a decent low-end gaming system, and 1866MHz RAM will give a pretty good boost over 1600.
So what’s more important? Based on researches, the answer is speed. In general, as speeds have increased, true latencies have remained approximately the same, meaning faster speeds enable you to achieve a higher level of performance. True latencies haven’t necessarily increased.
So how much RAM should you get? 16GB of RAM should exceed the needs of most, but if you’re the kind of person who is a content creator and uses multiple Adobe media creation programs and your project file is so big, extra RAM capacity is very welcome. Very few people need 32GB of RAM because it is in a special use-case scenario, but you can’t go wrong with that. Just be sure that you have the budget and you’re not sacrificing that budget to a more important peripheral such as processors and graphics card.
Do you have any questions? Talk to us in the comments section down below and we’ll try to answer them as much as we can.